I continue to work a small tapestry of the Hebrew word for 'shalom'.
There is no intended or discernible pattern, no fixed image of what the finished work will look like. It is being worked slowly, in those odd brief spaces of time when the notion to stitch and the opportunity to do so coincide. The colours are being mixed, strand by strand, sometimes three or even four shades woven into one six strand thread - they reflect the mood I am in at the time, but they also weave into a pattern of hope. The colours are greens, yellows, blues, browns, but they are mixed, juxtaposed, blended, sometimes random, so that the overall work is open-ended; and yet.
I hear the Israeli ambassador to the EU defending 3000 more houses in a settlement on the West Bank; and I stitch some more of this beautiful Hebrew word, and its background in the mercy of God. Palestinian outrage, rockets and political maneouvering raises the anger and fear stakes further, and I stitch a few more quiet points of hopefulness. In Belfast the flying of the Union jack creates riots and police officers are injured, I want to stitch.
I guess for me this tapestry has become a metaphor for mercy, a symbol of shalom, a pitch for peace, a protest, a prayer, a promise, or at least a reminder of those great promises in Isaiah, Micah, Amos, the Gospels and Revelation.
about lions and lambs in close but safe proximity
about spears into pruning hooks and rockets into trade agreements
about justice flowing down like rivers, and doing right by each other as natural and reliable as water runs to the sea
about loving enemies and embracing the other so that the other becomes brother
about leaves of the trees for the healing of the nations, and people from every tongue, tribe and nation praising the God who is all in all
about the New Jerusalem, over which the three great monotheistic faiths no longer need to battle and do murder, because there is space and welcome for all in a new creation and in the reconciliation of all things.
That's quite a theological load for a tapestry; but it is also the theological implicate of praying that looks to a different future because God is the God of the future whose loving purpose, just mercy, and reconciling heart, intersects with the reality of our present, but does so with Eternal intent. Whatever else advent and incarnation mean, they open up those wide doors for the King of glory.